Death Metal Essentials by Walt Hades and The Maxx Axe

Mortician_-_Hacked_up_for_BarbecueIf you want to combine Horror with metal, then look no further than Mortician. This Yonkers, NY based death metal group has everything every good-hearted metal/horror fan could want; aggressive songs, brutal lyrics sung in true death form and an overall aura of blood curdling horror. “Hacked Up For Barbeque” is the 1996 debut album for the band. Not only does it include the criteria above but they also include various samples from some of the more famous, and infamous, horror movies around. For example, the title track includes sampling from the 1974 film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” where Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) discovers Pam (Teri McMinn) invading their home and disposes of her on his favorite meathook. This scene directly influences the lyrics of the song and personifies it’s intense brutality. If this tickles your horror bone (directly adjacent to the funny bone) then this album is full of those choice bits to satisfy your hunger. Mortician have gone on to create 7 more albums and many demos/singles to quench the bloodthirst of their fans. You can find out more about them at their website, http://www.morticianrecords.com.

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So you have a taste for some Swedish Death Metal? Then Hypocrisy can be your main course! Formed in 1990 by death metal pioneer Peter Tägtgren, Hypocrisy were one of the forerunners for the Swedish Death Metal movement in the 90’s. Their songs present simplicity and brutality. “Osculum Obscenum” is their 2nd album which exemplifies the classic death metal formula with it’s riffing and lyrics. However, it takes a bit of a turn as not all songs are the stereotypical 240bpm. Various tempo changes are showcased on several songs including “The Pleasure of Molestation” where you go from sick brutal beats to slow methodical grooves, but never lessening the aggression. Peter Tägtgren has also worked with and produced some of the biggest metal bands to ever come screaming out of Europe including Immortal, Children of Bodom & Celtic Frost. Learn more about the band, it’s line up changes and influence on the swedish death metal scene at their site http://www.hypocrisy.cc.

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In Flames-The Jester Race. Considered by many, including myself, as arguably the most perfectly produced death metal album. The Gothenburg, Sweden based outfit’s sophomore album incorporates things hardly found in standard death metal albums at that time, such as intricate acoustic interludes and instrumentals, heroic dual lead guitars, deep melodic grooves and well-crafted songwriting that doesn’t primarily consist of topics like death, dismemberment, autopsies, rape and necrophilia. With classic fan favorites that include “Moonshield”, “Lord Hypnos”, “The Jester’s Dance” and the title track, the album is completely lacking of a dull moment, sending the listener into a full-speed-ahead blast into hyperspace that will leave them exhilarated and wanting more.

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Opeth- Still Life. Opeth is what you get if you take the brutality and malevolence of death metal and blend it with the technical complexities and structure of progressive rock. Songs can range anywhere between 5-11 minutes, filled with crushing guitar riffs, acoustic passages, middle eastern influence and bluesy 70’s-esque guitar solos, as well as guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mikael Akerfeldt’s ability to transition from deep, deathly growls to a clean, golden voice similar to that of The Moody Blues’s Justin Hayward. The band is a unique creature of its own kind, developing and progressing with each passing album. This album, released in 1999, is a strong exercise in musicianship and storytelling, as it tells the tale of a godless man’s return to his home village after a 15 year banishment, seeking out his long lost loved one. This kind of story seems to come right out of a Tigon Productions or American International Pictures film (see the ARKOFF formula). However, its compelling and each song matches the mood for what is being told. Other recommended albums from Opeth include My Arms, Your Hearse and Blackwater Park.

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Cannibal Corpse- The Bleeding. The Maxx Axe and I both have a mutual love for  he band that is considered the measuring stick of all traditional death metal. We also both feel the same when it comes this album. With every album of theirs filled with the same brand of violent, graphic artwork, stomach churning lyrics and brutal, neckbreaking, fast paced metal attacks, why do we feel 1994’s The Bleeding is their best work? The reason for me is it sets a change of musical direction, songs have slowed down, making the guitar riffs a bit groovier and more “Sabbath-esque”. Vocalist Chris Barnes, in his final work with the band before departing to form Six Feet Under, possesses the same timbre in his growls but has definitely modified the cadence, producing a much more decipherable effort (that way we can understand all of the juicy, violent, murderous, necrophalic details). Musically, it is a true headbanger’s delight, ending their initial era with what still remains their best work.

So there is just a sampling of some essential Death Metal. We could have gone on and on about some more of our favorite death metal bands, but that will have to wait for another time. Until then, keep it brutal. \m/!

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