The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #10, Death

  • Axl Rosenberg

The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.

In 1985, Possessed released Seven Churches, the closing track from which is called “Death Metal.” Understandably, this is considered to be the first death metal album ever, and that’s an accomplishment of which Possessed can be proud.

But death metal would not have become the phenomenon that it did if not for Chuck Schuldiner’s Death. Possessed had already broken up by the time Schuldiner released Death’s debut, Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. A year later, Death’s second album, Leprosy, would kick off the Morrisound craze, which Cannibal Corpse’s Paul Mazurkiewicz thinks is the very reason Tampa, FL became the epicenter of death metal. In February of ’90, Death released Spiritual Healing, officially kicking off the decade in which death metal would truly come into its own as a metallic subgenre. In other words, Possessed may have literally created death metal, but Death created death metal.

That alone would have been enough to cement Death’s legend. But Schuldiner was Schuldiner for a reason — which is to say, throughout his life, he was never afraid to stop growing as an artist. As the rest of the world began to catch onto death metal, Death stopped making what we now think of as ‘traditional’ death metal in favor of techier, proggier flavors. So, basically, Schuldiner went from helping to create death metal to helping to create tech-death.

Other death metal bands may have sold more records than Death or ultimately introduced more fans to death metal on account of their flashier images — but none ever enjoyed the same winning streak as Schuldiner’s baby. There are no bad albums in Death’s discography… fuck, there are no weak albums. That is in-fucking-SANE. What artist never takes a misstep, ever? Even in the mid/late ’90s, when grunge and then nu-metal really took off and everyone lost their shit, the quality of Death remained consistent. No less than Pantera, Death deserve credit for keeping non-bullshit-metal alive.

Little wonder, then, that Death became so iconic, that their music took on such profound meaning to so many. The fact that they released five of their seven albums in the between 1990 and 1998, and that Schuldiner died in ’01, means that we will always, in some way, associate them with the ’90s. Their place in the pantheon of extreme music from that era is secure, and will probably remain so until the sun goes out and humanity ends.

#25: Morbid Angel
#24: Melvins

#23: Meshuggah
#22: Emperor

#21: Cave In
#20: Botch
#19: Cradle of Filth
#18: Sepultura
#17: Napalm Death

#16: Rage Against the Machine
#15: Type O Negative

#14: Dream Theater
#13: Alice in Chains
#12: Nine Inch Nails
#11: Carcass

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