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Best Of Death - 2007(c) HailMetal.Com

HailMetal.com returns in full force with yet another Top 50 List. This time, the topic is death metal (if that wasn't already obvious to you). Why death metal? Well for much the same reasons as we did the thrash list, we are working off what we currently have the most knowledge of. Most of the staff here are fairly death metal savvy and as such we believe the ensuing list, whilst not going to please everyone, should have something for everyone, stir some heated debate and acknowledge as decent a breadth of death metal's contribution to music over the last 22 years (or thereabouts) as one possibly can, restricted to naming the "top 50 albums" of all time.

The composition of the list was slightly different to that of the thrash list. Whilst in principal, it was the same idea (based on voting amongst the admins), weightings were implied on each of our individual knowledges and a hopefully less skewed or concentrated list has resulted (in English, unlike the thrash list, you won't see 4 or 5 albums by the big name acts). The change was in response to criticism of our thrash list, not that we think we got it incorrect, but just an acknowledgement to the fact that there are multiple approaches and interpretations of what could be considered "the greatest" of all time.

Compared to the thrash list again, we have similarly taken a hard line as to what we consider eligible to death metal. Again there is room for interpretation, but to give you a flavour of how we drew the line in the sand, the most difficult was with the death / doom crossover - whilst Katatonia, Asphyx, Amorphis, Octobers Tide were considered in, My Dying Bride, Mournful Congregation, early Cathedral, Skepticism were all considered out. Other genre crossovers were less problematic, with only a handful of considerations such as Dissection and Zyklon ever considered for the death metal list (but in the end left out). The line was drawn between death leaning towards the "destructive" rather than having a "reconstructive" purpose. Equally, we took a pragmatic approach and considered what the natural reaction would be when considering what genre the band fell into. Naturally simple aesthetics were key in making this distinction. And while I don't intend to define the genre, I suspect you could infer a definition from the above, and whatever your opinion with regard to some grey area bands may be, take solace in the fact that if it is included or excluded from this list, it will be relative to other lists we have or will compose.

The many difficulties in accommodating people's taste as well as some stubborn opinions (including my own) as well as our busy schedules made the list difficult to compose. Without dwelling on the latter, you will probably be able to instantly spot "gaps" in the list. But these are not indeed "gaps", but rather illustrations of a difference in opinion. For example, whilst I considered Crypt of Keberos' "World of Myths" mandatory listening, Goran leaned towards Bloodbath's "Nightmares Made Flesh", Luke preferred The Abyss "The Otherside" and Nick, Gorguts' "From Wisdom to Hate". None of the above made our list but were considered for the list and at the end of the day there unfortunately just wasn't enough room.

Furthermore, we have gone with an approach of acknowledging only one album per band. Therefore, where you may question why we don't have something like "The Sumerian Cry" or "The Karelian Isthmus", it's not because we don't like the album, rather it was a case of saying that Death Metal, over 22 years has had more than 50 influential bands, and to try and narrow it down to less was more blasphemous than not individually acknowledging these aforementioned albums. We believe that the sentiment behind each album represented is also something of a representation of the bands full contribution to Death Metal as we know it. Furthermore, I will concede this Death Metal list has not been composed by 7 brutal death metal fans. Therefore, whilst there is some representation, brutal death fans are the most likely to be agitated by this list, but c'est la vie.

On that note, I will leave you with a list that will surely even rattle the very walls of hell with its unyielding respect for the most destructive forces in music "death metal".

"I tear the skies with my bare hands. There is no death for me." - Tomas Lindberg

~ Mike [byrne]
HM Senior Staff

#1 AT THE GATES - THE RED IN THE SKY IS OURS

The term "perfect" is often thrown about without a great deal of thought put into its meaning, in a sense used as a colloquialism. It is a pretty safe bet to say that there probably isn't such thing as a perfect heavy metal album, nor piece of art in general. However, if perfection was ever reached, surely it would only be a shade or two away from the formidable and undeniably brilliant "The Red in the Sky is Ours".

With fluid rhythm yet unparalleled dissonance "The Red in the Sky is Ours" is compositional brilliance. Like many of its peers, it evidences technical ecstasy but, in contrast, is not paralyzed by talent. Emotions pour from each song like ruptured arteries. From the bitter screams of anguish through to the intricate layers of tremulous melody and harmonious instrumentation, a message of nihilism, loss and torment is delivered. A deserved number one, At the Gates' "The Red in the Sky is Ours" is innovative, dark, death metal beauty which 15 after its release, is still the benchmark for death metal, if not heavy metal.

#2 MORBID ANGEL - ALTARS OF MADNESS

"Altars Of Madness" hardly needs introduction. It's a genre defining album that emerged to life in 1989. It's extremely technical sounding and horrendously aggressive in terms of both sound and lyrical message. David Vincent's style of growling is rather clear yet difficult to follow at times due to sheer speed. Complex finger tapping has also been introduced by guitarist Trey Azagthoth whose solos and thrash riffs were played with total precision in speed.

Technically this album is unstoppable. If you are one of the unlucky ones to not own this gem, then bleed for the Devil and die!

#3 AMORPHIS - TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES

Amorphis’ second full-length album, 1994’s "Tales From the Thousand Lakes", is a classic death metal album that takes standard death metal structures, and mixes them with more melodic instrumentation, doom influences, occasional clean vocals and lyrics based around Finland’s national epic, Kalevala.

This album is in many ways a unique recording, and has been critically acclaimed by both fans and music media alike. Later re-released in 2001 with the seminal track ‘Black Winters Day’ added, this album is truly worthy of a spot in our top 10.

#4 KATATONIA - BRAVE MURDER DAY

Katatonia's masterpiece release featuring Mikael Akerfeldt's invincible vocal delivery has stormed surprisingly to number four beating numerous greats at their own game. Unlike many bands, Katatonia were never afraid to experiment with their virtuosity. Mid paced riffing combines with innovative darkened licks to wilfully produce an album that captivates the listener from the very first note. Groove, precise death growls and an occasional double bass blast will keep you locked up in a day dream from which there is no way out. Only foreseeable action is to give in whilst headbanging with a beer in your hand.

"Brave Murder Day" is a centrepiece of excellence in the doom / death catalogue, and entitles its creators to a tag being of true innovators.

#5 DEATH - SPIRITUAL HEALING

This was the one unique album by Death that captured the rawness of their earlier releases combined with a technical ferocity which would be seen in the latter works. The band was maturing both musically and lyrically, with Chuck stepping forward from the pack with an album that showcased his many talents and that of his band mates, notably James Murphy. Growing out of the horror zombie lyrics and dealing with the everyday horrors one faced when they turned on the TV, the album dealt with adult themes like drug abuse and television evangelists.

The last Death album on which they truly sounded like a ‘death’ metal band and it is a timeless legacy today, 17 years after its release, of Chuck Shuldiner's brilliance.

#6 THE CHASM - DEATHCULT FOR ETERNITY: THE TRIUMPH

Arguably the most accomplished band since the early 90's death metal scene, The Chasm have developed an alchemic sound which illustrates the majesty of death and mythology. Akin to the occult, each of their releases delivers a whirling sound of melody infused chaos and perhaps none more successfully than their third release "Deathcult for Eternity: The Triumph".

With a gritty, muddy production, unpolished yet flawless musicianship, a sort of off key melody and howling vocals of insane dimensions, "Deathcult" is a 'triumph' of epic proportions. Influences hark back to early Slayer (namely "Hell Awaits") and hint towards touches of death metal such as God Macabre's "The Winterlong" or even Carnage's "Dark Recollections". However this likely underappreciated classic truly remains untained and original, delivering death metal that is sheer awe-inspiring incandescence.

#7 THERION - BEYOND SANCTORUM
First thing that strikes you upon listening to "Beyond Sanctorum" is its complex nature. Interesting riffs, scary moments and brilliant arrangements showcase the essentials in brutality. There are no boring parts; there are no filler bits, only groundbreaking monumental death / doom moments. Christofer is the genius who has done most of the growls, bass and guitars (alongside Peter Hansson), helping forge the grotesque doom sounds of early Therion. Drumming has also made a massive contribution courtesy of brilliant Oskar Forss.

Early 90's were the years of true Therion and that's were it stayed.

#8 OBITUARY - CAUSE OF DEATH

"Cause of Death" is a dish best served on a plateau of severed skulls and crushed bones. As is the case with "Altars of Madness", the release is filled with killer thrash riffs. Features are fantastic, lengthy guitar solos and clever intros with amazing drum work. It's a release that the band has not been able to replicate in the continuation of their careers and is also arguably John Tardy's best vocal performance to date. It's fast, brutal and incredibly tight - hallmarks of old school death metal that Obituary forged.

It's absolutely no surprise to see these Florida veterans stroll into the top 10. Even today the band is brimming with confidence in the wake of their latest effort...

#9 ENTOMBED - LEFT HAND PATH

The ground breaking album that defined a new genre - Swedish Death Metal. From the outset, a screaming howl leading into the furious riffing and vocals from the torture chambers of hell, this one had it all. The trademark ‘Entombed’ sound- a distinctive guitar tone used by the band on the first 2 albums was soon replicated by many of the Scandinavian death bands of the time yet none managed to surpass the original. "Left Hand Path" introduced the musical talents of a group of 4 young Swedes who showcased superb ability on a debut release.

Although later releases saw them branch out into a punkish territory, "Left Hand Path" is still regarded as Entombed's crowing achievement... and furthermore, still one of the best album covers ever.

#10 OPETH - MORNINGRISE

Completing our top 10 is a band widely regarded as one of the most original in the field of Progressive and extreme Death Metal. "Morningrise" in particular has been voted in as the most consistent and indeed most brutal release in the bands discography thus far. The guitars are left raw, better production values were realised than on "Orchid", and Akerfeldt's foray into 'black' evil-esque growl territory complete the changes in well delivered manner.

"Morningrise's" lack of solos and keyboards almost go unnoticed due to albums breathtaking progressive and acoustic melodies (at times over stretched) and elaborate rhythm and mood changes giving the album the edge in originality. This is a beautiful offspring of a genius we now know of as Mikael Akerfeldt, if not evidenced through the music, then read the lyrics and be awe-inspired.

11. Vader - Litany
12. Possessed - Seven Churches
13. Unleashed - Where No Life Dwells
14. Asphyx - The Rack
15. Dark Tranquillity - The Gallery
16. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
17. Arghoslent - Incorrigible Bigotry
18. Carcass - Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious
19. Cryptopsy - None So Vile
20. Malevolent Creation - The Ten Commandments
21. Darkthrone - Soulside Journey
22. Pestilence - Consuming Impulse
23. Sepultura - Morbid Visions
24. Dismember - Like an Everflowing Stream
25. Grave - Into the Grave
26. Tiamat - The Astral Sleep
27. Unanimated - Ancient God of Evil
28. Massacra - Final Holocaust
29. Bolt Thrower - ...For Victory
30. Carnage - Dark Recollections
31. Psycroptic - Scepter of the Ancients
32. Autopsy- Severed Survival
33. Hate Eternal - I, Monarch
34. Gorguts - Obscura
35. Amon Amarth - Once Sent from the Golden Hall
36. Atheist - Piece of Time
37. God Macabre - The Winterlong
38. Runemagick - The Supreme Force of Eternity
39. Nocturnus - The Key
40. Abomination - Abomination
41. Cadaver - ...In Pains
42. Macabre - Sinister Slaughter
43.Necrophobic - The Nocturnal Silence
44. Cannibal Corpse - Tomb of the Mutilated
45. Stargazer - The Scream that Tore the Sky
46. Deicide - Deicide
47. Fleshcrawl - Descend into the Absurd
48. Miasma - Changes
49.Demigod - Slumber of Sullen Eyes
50. In Flames - The Jester Race

 

Individual HM Staff Recommendations

Byrne
01. At the Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours
02. Necrophobic - The Nocturnal Silence
03. The Chasm - Deathcult for Eternity: The Triumph
04. God Macabre - The Winterlong
05. Arghoslent - Incorrigible Bigotry
06. Katatonia - Brave Murder Day
07. Runemagick - The Supreme Force of Eternity
08. Miasma - Changes
09. Liers in Wait - Spiritually Uncontrolled Art (EP)
10. Massacra - Final Holocaust
LukeLord
01. Death - Scream Bloody Gore
02. Carcass - Symphonies of Sickness
03. Entombed - Left Hand Path
04. Deicide - Deicide
05. Death - Leprosy
06. Morbid Angel - Blessed are the Sick
07. Obituary - Cause of Death
08. Entombed - Clandestine
09. Sepultura - Morbid Visions
10. Abomination - Abomination
Militia
01. Death - Spiritual Healing
02. Vader - Litany
03. Quo Vadis - Forever…
04. Obituary - Cause of Death
05. Cannibal Corpse - Tomb of the Mutilated
06. Therion - Beyond Sanctorum
07. Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
08. Psycroptic - Scepter of the Ancients
09. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
10. Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh
Oliver
01. Death - Individual Thought Patterns
02. Death - Spiritual Healing
03. At the Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours
04. Carcass - Heartwork
05. Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh
06. Death - Symbolic
07. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
08. Amorphis - Tales from the Thousand Lakes
09. Death - The Sound of Perseverance
10. Vader - Litany
Bird
01. Amorphis - Tales from theThousand Lakes
02. Amorphis - The Karelian Isthmus
03. Darkthrone - Soulside Journey
04. Arghoslent - Incorrigible Bigotry
05. Impaled Nazerene - Suomi Finland Perkele
06. Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
07. Hypocrisy - Abducted
08. Amon Amarth - Once Sent from the Golden Hall
09. Dismember - Like an Everflowing Stream
10. Morbid Angel - Entangled in Chaos
Damien-X
01. Death - The Sound of Perseverance
02. Cannibal Corpse - Bloodthirst
03. At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul
04. Dark Tranquillity - Character
05. Obituary - The End Complete
06. Into Eternity - The Scattering of Ashes
07. Quo Vadis - Defiant Imagination
08. Morbid Angel - Heretic
09. Napalm Death - Words from the Exit Wound
10. Decapitated - Winds of Creation
Decadent
01. Incantation - Onward to Golgotha
02. Immolation - Unholy Cult
03. Asphyx - The Rack
04. Internecine Excoriation - Prognosticate The Decrepitude
05. The Chasm - Deathcult for Eternity: The Triumph
06. Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
07. Bolt Thrower - IVth Crusade
08. Eucharist - A Velvet Creation
09. Possessed - Seven Churches
10. At the Gates - With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness

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